Hunter Netball have scored their first win in the Metro League first division, after a desperate final-quarter defensive scramble saw the young squad hold off Baulkham Hills “until the very last second” to claim a 43-44 victory.
After leading by five goals heading into the final straight, Hunter found themselves on the wrong end of a series of umpire calls. The pressure set Baulkham Hills on a rampaging run, and the Sydney side dragged the game back to a single goal margin.
With a possession right on the buzzer against them, Hunter coach Natarlia Bridges admitted she could “see that heart-breaking goal inches away” if her team couldn’t hold off their opponents. Luckily for the Newcastle squad, confusion on the time left saw Baulkham hold the ball, and the final buzzer issued the news – Hunter had won.
“If it had been a few more seconds, we would have been gutted,” Bridges told the Chronicle after her side’s first win of the year. “It feels so good to win, finally.
“The girls had the biggest smiles on their faces at the end of the game, and everyone was saying how good it felt to get the win. It’s a real merit to this team too, with Annie [Neenan] injured recently, Mackenzie Stuart just back from injury, and that winter flu ripping through camp, the girls were all really struggling to stay out on their feet.”
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While Bridges praised her entire roster for their “standout games,” the Hunter mentor said the efforts of mid-court impact player Annelise Iping “changed the game.”
“Annelise had such a good defensive game, and then attacking-wise she was just bringing every ball out,” Bridges said. “She had one of those games where everyone is just watching her on the side of the court and thinking, or saying, “Wow”.”
The one-goal margin gives Hunter their first competitive points of the season. The result may not have moved the team off the bottom of the standings at the moment, but they now sit just four points behind St George in sixth, four spots above them.
“This win has showed that the girls have improved so much, and we now have a chance to start climbing the ladder with some points,” Bridges said. “If we win the next few games, we can aim for at least top six considering there’s such a small margin there.
“This tiny gap is what is going to keep us motivated over the next few weeks, we want to break that down, and if we keep performing and pushing there’s not doubt that the girls can get up there on the table. We just have to be persistent, and never give up.”
Last Monday evening saw Hunter’s fourth division side also pick up a win, as they ousted tenth-placed Blacktown City 55-42 to move into seventh. The organisation’s second team has now scored two victories this season, and move to a 2-5 record after the opening seven rounds of the Metro League.
The fourth division team will again be in action this evening, when they face Baulkham Hills’ graded side. Their opponents have won five of their seven games.
Hunter’s first division side also has an interesting challenge this coming Thursday. They will play Hills District (third) on Court 2 on June 6, in the final round of fixtures before the mid-season break. Hills have lost three of their seven games thus far.
Netball NSW’s flagship talent pathways event, the Senior State Titles, are also set to be held this weekend. The event will be hosted by Campbelltown.
Newcastle, Charlestown, Westlakes, and Kurri Kurri are set to represent the Hunter region in the State Title Open Championship. Port Stephens, Cessnock, Lakeside, Maitland, Singleton, and Muswellbrook will travel from the region to compete in the second division State Titles competition at the same venue.